May 28, 2007

Looking Forward to June 3, 1st Sunday after Pentecost

This weekend is the Annual Meeting of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. Thanks to Lorraine for providing worship leadership.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joshua 8: 32-35
  • Psalm 33 (VU p.760)
  • From the Letters of the Church: 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31
  • From the Gospel: Mark 4: 13-20

The Hymns are:

  • 412 This is the Day
  • 357 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
  • 409 Morning Has Broken
  • 675 Will Your Anchor Hold

This week's worship service uses resources provided by The United Church Observer.

For information on subscribing to the Observer either follow the link above or contact Gord at the church office.

May 22, 2007

Looking Forward to May 27, 2007 -- Pentecost Sunday

This Sunday is Pentecost, arguably the second most important Sunday of the Christian Year. Each year we at Riverview mark Pentecost by celebrating communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:

  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: Genesis 11:1-9
  • Psalm 104:24-35 (VU p.827 Part 2)
  • From the Writings of the Early Church: Acts 2:1-21

The Hymns are:

  • 457 As We Gather at Your Table
  • 198 Come, O Spirit, Dwell Among Us (tune 333)
  • 195 On Pentecost They Gathered (tune 331)
  • 68 Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

The Sermon title is What Language to Use?

Early Thoughts: Language is a potent part of how we communicate, and of how we miscommunicate. Language can unite us and it can divide us. And sometimes the most dividing happens when we mistakenly believe that we are speaking the same language.

This week we hear the Scriptural explanation for the fact that there are many languages in the world. The Acts passage then tells us how the Spirit is able to move beyond the boundaries of language. While the real point of the story is the transformative power of the Spirit to change lives, it is also important that each person hearing heard the Good News proclaimed in her/his own language!

This story gives us a challenge. It challenges us to think seriously about what it means to tell the old story to people in their own language. And this is not about translating the Scripture from Greek/Hebrew into English, French, Swahili, etc. This is about translating "church English" into a form that people outside the church can understand. When was the last time you used thee or thou in a conversation?

One of the things that is often misunderstood is that language is always evolving. In real terms it changes at least generationally (currently the change may in fact be speeding up). This goes beyond current slang. Idioms and expressions change or lose meaning. The same word gets redefined.

So what language do we need to use? Does it make sense to use shepherding and farming images to inner-city kids who only see food wrapped in plastic wrap on grocery store shelves? What idioms have the meaning that we want to portray when we talk about the Good Shepherd? How do we tell the old old story in a language that has meaning today? How do we tell it in ways that have meaning for people of differing generations and backgrounds?

In the church we really do need to be multi-lingual--even if we are only using English. What language do we use to tell the Good News to those who are around to hear us? In the end the point is in getting the message across. It is less important what words we use to do that.

May 18, 2007

Ministerial Musings, MAy 2007

There is a newsletter coming out shortly. Here is the Ministerial Musings that will be in it:

Last month a group of us gathered at First Church United in Thunder Bay. We were there for Living the Welcome, a training event associated with the Emerging Spirit campaign. The idea behind Living the Welcome is that congregations need some encouragement to think seriously about what it means to be welcoming. After all, it does no good to have national magazine ads and an interactive website ( encouraging people to try out the United Church and not help congregations prepare to welcome people who have different questions and expectations.

Part of the challenge about truly welcoming newcomers as active parts of any organization (be it a church congregation, or a service club, or a town) is that it might mean change. And change is challenging, often we see change as a loss instead of as a possible gain, and so we are afraid and saddened by the idea. If new people come in with new ideas and new questions and new expectations then we might not be the same anymore.

During the weekend we talked about change. And it occurred to me (again, maybe reminded me would be better) that in order to be open to change we need to ask ourselves who and where we are. Part of that is naming the obvious but also asking about the hidden, unspoken rules that we use. Part of it also is seeking to understand the differences, if any, between how we describe ourselves and how outsiders see us. Only when we know who we are can we truly ask who we want to be.

On September 23rd we will be having a Congregational meeting. On that Sunday we will also have a special worship service. The worship service will get us to start thinking about how we see ourselves and the meeting will continue that discussion and move us into how best to live out that vision. I encourage everyone to come and take part, whether you are here every Sunday or just once in a while you are a part of who we are and we want to hear your voice.

In preparation for that time I have some questions that I will be pondering over the summer. I share them with you so that you can do the same while waiting for the next fish to bite or while sitting by the lakeside.

  • What makes Riverview special?
  • How would you describe us to someone wondering about coming?
  • What do others see when they look at Riverview?

And just for the heck of it, here is one that we were asked at one of the workshops last month:

  • If Riverview were a tree, what kind of tree would it be and why?

Have a truly wonderful summer, and hope to see you on September 23, if not before.

May 15, 2007

Looking Ahead to May 20, 2007 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture readings for this week are:
  • From the Writings of the Early Church: Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
  • Psalm 97 (VU p.817)
  • From the Gospel: John 17:20-26

The hymns are:

  • 402 We Are One
  • 605 Jesus, Teacher, Brave and Bold
  • 606 In Christ There Is No East or West
  • 326 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

The Sermon title is: Ut Onmes Unum Sint – That All May Be One.

Early Thoughts: This passage from John is where the United Church of Canada got it's motto. The passage is a portion of a long prayer that John puts in Jesus' mouth. Retired UCCan minister John Shearman writes about it:

This prayer almost certainly contains few if any actual words of Jesus. Instead, it contains John's interpretation of what Jesus' life, death and resurrection meant for the Christian community for which he was writing in the last decade of the 1st century. It also summarizes the discourse which began in chapter 13 as well as much of the Gospel.
The whole prayer covers familiar themes: Jesus death and resurrection as glorification; eternal life as knowing God through faith in Jesus, the Christ/Messiah; the disciples as those chosen to represent Christ in and to the world; the disciples' need to be sustained in their mission through the truth they have received from Jesus and now are to share with the world.

By the time John is writing his Gospel the Christian community is in conflict. They have been brought into conflict with their JEwish brothers and sisters and evicted from the synagogue. ANd the community itself is divided on various issues. And so John includes this prayer for unity both within the community and unity between community members and God.

A century ago these words "That they may be one" were seen as words of hope. Re-unification of the Christian community was happening within many denominations, culminating (in Canada) in the union of Methodists, Congregationalists, 2/3 of the Presbyterians to form the United Church of Canada. The vision was that these words meant that there would a time when the church would once again find itself unified under one roof.

But is that really what it means? Does the prayer mean that we seek unity in one denomination or that we seek to remember that our unity lies in a broader place. What does it mean to hear Jesus' prayer in our pluralistic (in so many ways) society?

Does unity have to meant that we all agree? If so then it is a fool's hope. Does it mean that we are always on the same side? In the big picture perhaps, but in the details most certainly not. ANd yet we still have our motto. We still have this picture of a united and uniting church (despite the frequent Freudian typo Untied Church of Canada). Come and join us on Sunday as we wrestle with what Jesus' prayer for unity means in the here and now.

May 08, 2007

Sunny Cove Camp

Sunny Cove Camp this year is August 6-10 (5-11 for the leaership team).

Forms for campers, Youth Leader applications and Adult Leader forms are now available from the church office.

The theme this year is God's World In Our Hands.

Registration is first come first serve! Youth Leader applications need to be in by May 31st.

Worth a Read!

There is a great blog of devotionals out there called Occasional Sightings of the Gospel.

The writer is a Presbyterian minister in the US and the devotionals are truly wonderful. The latest (as of today, May 8) is an homage to teachers.

Looking Forward to May 13, 2007 -- 6th Sunday of Easter, Christian Family Sunday

The Scripture Readings this Sunday are:
  • From the History of the Early Church: Acts 16:9-15
  • Psalm 67 (VU p. 786)
  • From the Gospel: John 14:23-29

The Hymns for this Sunday are:

  • 624 Give to Us Laughter
  • 365 Jesus Loves Me
  • 382 Breathe on Me Breath of God
  • 218 We Praise You, O God

There will be no sermon this week. Instead we will have an edition of Stump the Preacher. There are already a few questions in the box. What will Gord have to answer?? Come and find out.

Following worship we will have a Mother's Day Brunch served by the men of the congregation.

May 04, 2007

MOderator facing surgery

We hold in prayer the Right Reverend David Giuliano, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, as he needs to take a sabbatical for surgery and other medical treatment.

More details here

May 01, 2007

Looking Forward to May 6, 2007 -- 5th Sunday of Easter, Camp Sunday

The Scripture readings for this week are:

  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 11:1-18
  • Psalm 148
  • From the Gospel: John 13:31-35

The Hymns are:

  • 289 It Only Takes a Spark
  • This Little Light of Mine (insert)
  • They’ll Know we Are Christians (insert)
  • 352 Lord of the Dance

Following the meditation we will view a PowerPoint presentation on Sunny Cove Camp.

The Meditation title is A New Commandment.

Early thoughts:A camp song goes:

A new commandment, give I unto you
that you love one another as I have loved you
that you love one another as I have loved you
And be this shall all men know that you are my disciples
that you have love one for another

In the end this is the basics of what it means to be a Christian. It isn't about doctrine, or about how we pray, or about how much money we have. It is all about loving each other. All of the Gospels attest to this, that the greatest commandment is to love.

Of course it is our ability to love each other that both makes it possible to live with each other and gets regularly tested because we live with each other. And because of that testing we ned to remind ourselves on a constant basis that loving each other is not only good, it is mandatory and vital.

Over the course of history Christianity's success in living up to the commandment to love has often been less than stellar. Christianity has been exclusive (of women, of gays and lesbians, of people who think differently, of other ethnic groups). Christianity has made pronouncments of damnation. Christianity has led the call to warfare and crusade. And so Christians have been accused of being hypocritical, of not following their own faith. But just when I want to give up there comes a story about when we get it right. For all our slipping we have the potential to get it right.

We have come to understand that we live in a global village. We have come to learn that we have to find a way to live together despite our differences. The biggest part of doing that is learning to love as we are commanded to do so. And as the hymn we will sing on Sunday says: They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love.